Nepal: Maoists Overshadowed by Lowlander Anger


February 28, 2008: Separatist groups in the south have tried to blockade the roads north, to the Katmandu valley, where the capital is. The government sent thousands of police and soldiers to break the blockade. Truck movements north to the capital have been irregular for most of this month as a result. The separatists want political changes (more autonomy for themselves) before the April elections. The government refuses to make changes until after the elections. Things have spiraled out of control, with mobs of separatists clashing with police.

So far this month, five have died, and over a hundred have been injured. Last year, such violence left 45 dead. Half the population lives in the south, and they have long felt slighted by the other half, who live in the Katmandu valley, and many other mountain valleys, to the north. The Maoists largely represent disaffected members of the urban middle class (in Katmandu) and poor tribesmen from the many up country ethnic groups. The southern groups, which don't always get along, represent people who have moved north from India over the centuries, and have long been ruled by an aristocracy originally from India, and more warlike mountain tribes. The Maoists ignored this long simmering discontent, and are now caught in the middle of it, not really sure of what to do. The unrest in the south is hurting the economy, which is causing still more discontent.


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